When Clara feels a surge of emotion, be it excitement or frustration, she expresses such emotional overflow with a quick swipe at our faces. We say, “Clara, can I have a hug?” She says, “Nnnnh!” and brushes her sharply fingernailed hand across our noses.
Now, we say “no” and even when she scrunches her nose in uncertainty about the true meaning of this word, we don’t smile. We even set her down on the ground, away from the temptation of our face flesh. We are adamant. But we are also reminded of the days when we tried to train our dogs.
“Heel!,” we said with a stubborn yank on the lead. The “Dog Training for Pushovers” book said something about how a dog’s nose should always be behind his owner’s right leg so that the dog understood his place. Dakota barely gets off the bed when we ask; place is not something he understands. The unconvinced look of the untrainable Dakota is startlingly similar to that of the seventeen-month-old Clara.
I know I will always love Clara, but I also hope to always like her. When she gives me that sassy “did you just tell me not to do something?” look, she looks like she’s thirteen instead of one and a half. And it’s not as cute when a one-and-a-half year old looks like she starts her first day at junior high in a week.
Then she smiles. Or, for no particular reason, she scuttles over and sits in our lap or she gives Delilah her evening hug before bedtime, and I see in her a goodness and desire to be loved that lives in everyone, I think.
The other day, a little girl was bawling—standing still, streaming big fat tears down her cheeks into her mouth bawling—in Kid’s Club at the gym where Clara stays while I teach yoga. I walked in to get Clara and the little girl dashed toward the door to escape and confiscate her mom from Zumba. Of course, the little girl was pulled away from the door and the bawling intensified. Clara put her hand on the girl’s shoulder and started to cry, too. She stood there and faced the little girl and cried with her. Then she circled the Kid’s Club and brought all her favorite toys to the girl and kept at it, even though the little girl pushed them away. When a girl wants her mom, nothing else comes close, but Clara still tried so hard.
She doesn’t say many words yet and she’s been behind on just about every other milestone there is, but, as her mom, nothing has made me happier than seeing so much capacity for compassion in such a little person. She can feel what someone else feels, and for some reason, that makes parenting seem easier.
Here’s some classic Clara mid- 2011: